Exploring Bertolt Brecht

Exploring Bertolt Brecht

100 students, most enrolled in Humanities Core, attended the 50-minute “Exploring Brecht” acting workshop. Exercises introduced students to the alienation effect, gestures, and the caberet elements in Brecht’s epic theater. Thank you, MFA alums Ryanne Domingues and Siobhan Doherty, for contributing your energy and creative talents to our studies!

Exploring Bertolt Brecht
by Diane Phung, Physics

The Exploring Bertolt Brecht Workshop for Non-Actors is similar to Shakespeare workshop on Much Ado about Nothing and Macbeth at the New Swan Shakespeare Festival this summer. The workshops go over lines in the play and demonstrate effective acting techniques while involving the audience in a short acting training. This workshop, however, focuses on Brecht’s anti-war play, Mother Courage and her Children (1939). Director Ryanne Domingues and actress Siobhan Doherty led the group in lines such as “No one really wants the fighting to end” (spoken by the General in the play) and “My kids aren’t suited for war work.” They enlisted two groups for this activity. The first group viewed war as “the maker of hero” and the second group viewed war as the “taker of life” and mourns over a dead. Saying the lines takes a different meaning for each group. The effect is based on gestures to show emotions. As an actress trained in realism, Doherty might not know the experience or feel the emotions of war, but she tries to make her acting effective by asking herself what she wants the audience to experience. Mother Courage, thus, isn’t so much of a soap opera.

I think it is interesting that the presenters contrasted two perspectives of war and were able to make the play understandable and accessible to people who haven’t experienced war. It will be fascinating to see an anti-war play by a German playwright.